People tell me it’s too confusing to buy European wines because of the myriad of place names. No place is worse than Burgundy when it comes to putting forth a seemingly impenetrable wave of place names and producers. When I hear this complaint I always suggest that people pay attention to the back label instead of the front. On the back label is the name of the importer who selected and shipped the wine. The name of the importer is a sure-fire indicator of the quality of the wine in the bottle. There are many names that, when I see them on the label, inspire me to try the wine. People like Rebecca Wasserman, Robert Chadderdon, Kermit Lynch, Terry Theise, Rudy Wiest and Joe Dressner (Louis/Dressner) have guided me towards outstanding wines from all of Europe’s important regions for years.
Now it appears there is another name to add to the list. Scott Paul Wright of Scott Paul Selections has been quietly assembling an outstanding portfolio of Burgundy estates that produce classic, purely styled pinot noir and chardonnay wines. A tasting of Wright’s selections will explain the concept of terroir to any doubter. Those familiar with Oregon wines will also recognize the Scott Paul name from his excellent winery based in Carlton Oregon where he strives to make elegant pinot noir inspired by his love of Burgundy. If you wonder why Scott didn’t call his winery Scott Wright instead of Scott Paul, you might remember there’s another outstanding winery and a winemaker named Ken in Carlton already using the Wright name.
I have been tasting with pleasure his selections over the last two years and just attended a compelling tasting of some of his current releases.
- Chablis Grande Vignes, Frédéric Gueguen, 2006 - Classic Chablis with a firm, tight minerality and a long, clean stony finish. While 06’s are considered more forward than normal for Chablis due to the warm vintage this wine will benefit from a few more years of bottle age. A real bargain. ($23)
- Puligny Montrachet, Philippe Chavy, 2005 - Blended from four lieu dits vineyards of medium, but mature age. Thankfully the Domaine uses only 20 to 30% new oak so the complexity of the chardonnay grown in these fine vineyards can show through. Still lean and immature, this excellent Puligny displays all the best attributes of this commune. Clean, firm and mineral laden throughout, this will be an very good wine in about five years. ($48)
- Meursault Charmes, 1er Cru, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvée Bahèzre de Lanlay, 2005 - Purchased at the Hospices de Beaune auction by Wright, this is a big, oaky (100% new) viscous chardonnay that will be well-liked by those more experienced with California Chardonnay rather than Burgundy. Despite all the oak, it is still a very good wine, but I don’t see it as something to cellar. ($55)
- Chambolle Musigny, Les Sentiers, 1er Cru, A. & H. Sigaut, 2005 - All the luxurious, delicious, supple pinot character that you expect from the Chambolle Musigny commune, which Wright unabashedly declares as his first love in Burgundy. The color is perfect pinot, rich and dark, but still completely translucent. The bouquet is perfumed and silky reaching your nose long before the glass is even close to it. While ripe and substantial on the palate, it is still lively and zesty with a wonderful undercurrent of acidity elevating and enlivening the sweet fruit and textures. The finish is long and satisfyingly laced with smoothly textured tannins that promise many years of development. Certainly a wine that should be allowed to see at least its tenth birthday. An outstanding pinot noir. ($72)
- Pommard, Réyane & Pascal Bouley, 2004 (tasted with dinner after the tasting and then with lunch the following day) Yet another 04 Burgundy requiring more time. At first a bit off from what I thought was a bit of reduction so I put the bottle away for the next day. At Easter lunch the following day the wine was lovely, but delicate. This, like most 04’s are Burgundy for Burgundy lovers. Those used to the more obvious charms of New World pinot will find them perhaps too delicate, but those seeking complexity instead of power will be pleased. Let another five years pass to give this wine a chance to open. If you are going to drink now an hour or two in a decanter will improve your experience. ($48)
- Pommard, Platièries, Thierry Violot-Guillemard, 2005 - Perfectly lovely light ruby color that is quite translucent. Richly smoky with a dark, brooding black fruit character that is not prepared to show itself yet. Very structured and tannic at this point, as you would expect from a Pommard, this is a wine that not only requires, but demands significant aging to show its considerable potential. Somewhere around 2015 this should be an excellent wine. ($54)
- Mazoyères Chambertin, Grand Cru, Taupenot-Merme, 2005 - As good as the other wines were, here you reach a new level. This is a wine that will show any Burgundy critic the error of their ways. Simply a stunning interplay of power and elegance, this is an extraordinary pinot noir. The complexity and terroir exhibited by this wine will keep New World pinot noir winemakers up at night wondering if they can ever achieve such wine. All baby fat and young tannin at this point, you can feel the rumbling greatness that will rise in this wine with time. The aromas and flavors are velvety and exotic with touches of smoky oak and bittersweet chocolate. This is another wine that should not be opened before 2015. ($110)
- Romanée St. Vivant, Grand Cru, J.J. Confuron, 2004 - Following a flashy 05 Grand Cru is not an easy position for a 2004, even one as good as this wine. The 04’s seem closed and lean now as they have yet to awaken from the “dumb” stage all natural Burgundy passes through on its journey to maturity. This and the natural lean character of the 04 vintage make this a wine easy to underestimate and I think that would be a mistake. While lacking the power of the Mazoyères Chambertin I think it does not lack in complexity or character. Despite its tightness, the flowery fruit is spiced with a touch of bittersweet orange zest. This is another wine that demands rather than suggests aging. The price should be enough to get most consumers to treat it with such needed respect. This is not a wine for Burgundy novices, but experienced collectors will love it. ($225)